Did you know that statistically, runners had less injury before the days of the modern running shoe? Before the day Phil Knight used his wife’s waffle iron to make the first soles of Nike, elite runners were running in extremely minimal shoes. No two-inch heel, no gel or air cushioning, just fabric and stitches.
I have been extremely interested in the minimalist movement for a little over a year. I read some great reviews of magical pain free running, and awful ones about fractured bones. It all seemed to come down to the strength training you put in pre-purchase and the amount of time allowed for the adjustment period after purchase.
Skora is a brand that is dedicated to getting you back to running real. This Portland, OR based company engineers its shoes to mimic the real shape and movement of your foot. Why is this important? Well, because it is finally a shoe that helps reconnect your feet to your body, encourages natural repositioning of the body into quality running from, and allows you to find your rhythm or stride.
When I came across Skora at Outdoor Retailer, and was gifted a pair of their Women’s Base multi-purpose shoe (MSRP $110), I was both excited and nervous. I was ready to run in them right away, but terrified I would try too much to soon and end up injured. I threw inhibition to the wind and made myself a 10-week buildup plan. Starting with 5 minutes the first week, I added between 5-10 minutes each week until I could run in them for 1-hour comfortably.
I’ll be the first to tell you that teaching your body to run minimalist is a process. It requires patience and diligence. One of the first things Skora told me before I took the shoes home was to read about their philosophy and take it to heart while running. Their philosophy is that running shoes should “be built to encourage running performance that is as biomechanically correct as possible, with minimal interference.” The result, ‘Real Running.’
In order to run real, the shoes have to have specific style. This is called the R01 System, where four pieces are put together to make less than the average shoe. With the focus on natural human biomechanics, the forefoot is high abrasion rubber for durability and concaved to match the natural foot shape so that each step in a Skora is like walking barefoot. The low profile tread is only a 4mm rubber, so the shoe naturally encourages you to run on the forefoot box. Unlike regular running shoes with a very angular tread with specific edges that can cause ankle injuries if you step on a rock the wrong way, Skora’s curved profile from heel to toe allows for natural lateral movement so the foot can roll over obstacles without the ankle twisting action. The midsole component of the shoes are only 5mm thick and have grooves running around the arch, forefoot box, and between the big toe. These anatomical flex grooves help the shoe move with you for maximum comfort and performance. Finally, their patented Ortholite Sockliner is a mere 4mm thick. This layer is not only anti-microbial, but also breathable so the shoe can be worn with or without socks. There are also raised top bumps on the surface of the sock liner that increase biofeedback and the foot’s feeling of the ground.
The first time I went to lace up, I discovered that instead of laces these particular shoes are perfect for Triathletes because they have an adjustable X-strap with Velcro. They are easy to get on and you can pull them tight or leave them loose to fit your foot. There is also an adjustable heel strap if you need a little more snug fit around the lower ankle. Best of all, the stitch-down construction means there are no hot spots from seams!
My first few runs in Skoras were extremely educational. I took them out for a 50 minute run during Outdoor Retailer. Not the best choice if you’ve never run in zero-drop shoes (no differential in midsole/outsole height from heel-to-toe). But, I learned an awful lot about my running in that time. As I took off down the street I could immediately feel there was a difference in my running, although it was not until I passed a large window of a storefront that I knew what that feeling was. I was, probably for the first time in my running career, standing up straight and tall. My shoulders were back, my head was up, and I was not pitched forward. After laughing a bit to myself and wondering how one pair of shoes could make this sort of a difference, I started to notice my stride and foot strike position were probably the cause of the good form. My stride was far shorter than usual, so much so that it was easy for my foot to strike forefoot. With this more compact stride I honestly felt like I had springs in my legs. There was a new power with each step I had never experienced before.
Week by week for ten weeks I have added 5-10 minutes to my Skora runs. I have, without a doubt became a much stronger runner as a result. Typically, I am pretty slow on the up hills, but as the weeks progressed I noticed a significant increase in power and speed while ascending. In fact, on a particular occasion I remember seeing a deer leap through the meadow in front of me, and realized that is exactly how I felt: bounding playfully along the path. It’s truly been an incredible shift in running mindset. Not only do I feel good because I run, but I really great while I. In fact, I have been so inspired by the way these shoes help me truly love to run, I signed up for my first half marathon!
Whether you’re looking for a way out of your running rut, looking to improve your form, or just get a new pair of shoes, I highly recommend you consider a pair of Skoras.